by Corky Carroll
As the first “Freshwater Pro” surfing event was just completed at the infamous Surf Ranch in Central California, the event that the World Surfing League canceled the “Trestles” event in San Clemente for, the subject of competition, and just surfing in general, on artificial waves came up at our dinner table last night. We have a few surfers visiting this week and it was interesting to get contrasting opinions. One guy said he would really love to surf there, to try out that perfect wave. Another said, “That’s not surfing, I would never go there and I doubt many others would either.” This kind of surprised me, so I asked why.
“Surfing is being with nature; I want to be as far out into nature as possible and being in a wave tank is just NOT that. It has no soul.” And no matter what anybody else said he stuck with that opinion. But hey, I get it. Yes, I would choose to be sitting off a beautiful tropical beach, miles from nowhere and away from everybody else while getting all the perfect waves I wanted with just a pal or two out there with me. We all want that. But, for me, I would still like to ride that perfect wave to at least see what it is like. Plus, if I lived in a land locked area and a wave pool was the only place that I could surf then of course that would be where I would surf. The question being do I surf or not surf? I surf.
This kinda got me thinking. Wave pools are not really the only “man-made” waves on the planet. Yes, they are probably the only artificially made waves, if that is what they are really. But there is more than one way to make a “surfable” wave. This being a wave that already exists that you turn into a wave that you might want to ride. Places such as Ala Moana in Hawaii were created when they blew a channel in a reef to make an entrance to a boat harbor. This created perfectly peeling waves coming off the shallow reef as they rolled into the deeper water of the channel. Sometimes Jetties do the same thing as sandbars tend to form on one side or the other and actually create a well shaped wave where there was only closed out beach break beforehand.
There have been many attempts at actually building a surf spot. Remind me to relive the story of the ill-fated “Drumonds Reef” off Capistrano Beach to you one day. Most attempts at creating an artificial reef to form a surf spot have not met with much success, at least so far. I have often set on my deck looking at these big closed out shorebreak walls that are between my house and the point, a few hundred yards down the beach from where I live, and thinking that if I could just dump a few hundred old tires in the right spot, tied together so they wouldn’t move, that they would anchor themselves in the sand and create a shallow spot that would cause a nice peak to form. But, this is just me fantasizing.
But, lo and behold, turns out that there is a guy in Western Australia that has just come up with, what seems like anyway, a workable and environmentally friendly inflatable reef. I read about it on magicseaweed.com. He is set to test it out this coming November. IF this works it could be a real game changer. Much better concept than old tires tied together, and probably less smelly. Plus, you could move it.
So, as you can see, wave pools are not the only way to create surf spots. They are a really good way, and could bring surfing to anyplace on Earth, but not the only way. Heck, as I think more about this, you could also create a great surfable wave in a river by building the perfect underwater formation. Find a good fast-moving river, stick something underwater to make a shallow spot and you get a standing wave. Lotsa ways to make waves. Are any of these a substitute for the real thing? Probably not. But if you are not near a real one, and you wanna surf, why not?